Thanks to those nasty whispers of “recession,” pricey prix fixe meals paired with $600 bottles of wine might be few and far between. But that doesn’t mean the party’s over. In times of hardship, it’s best to grow up, get responsible, and throw a proper soiree. But if you’re unsure of where to turn, freaked out about flowers, or inhibited by invitation anxiety, relax. Check out the wealth of resources we’ve uncovered for you. Though the stock market has wiped out many a personal fortune, it’s a windfall you can count on.
On the run and need last-minute party accoutrements? Central Market’s cheese department is hard to beat—and even harder to miss. A massive display houses more than 650 varieties, and this grocery continually updates its selection, adding five to ten new choices every month. Either stick with what you know, or try something new on every visit.
Lucky Layla Farms
Fans of Fearing’s know the bounty of Lucky Layla Farms. One taste of the sweet, creamy butter and flavorful cheeses from the award-winning Plano dairy and you’ll feel like you’ve won the lottery. Whole Foods, Sprouts, Eatzi’s, and others carry the products, or hit the jackpot at the farm’s store.
Molto Formaggio has expanded from its North Dallas outpost, and now also has a shop in Highland Park Village. Both locations wow customers with a selection of more than 150 imported cheeses from 16 countries. Can’t decide? Take in your cheese platter and they’ll customize a tray just for you.
If you don’t know Paula Lambert by now, we suggest you sign up for one of her great classes. (She offers a course in cheesemaking as well as wine and cheese pairing and, our favorite, a beer pairing.) In the meantime, your party guests will delight in her handiwork. Lambert got started in 1982 making 100 pounds of mozzarella a week and today churns out a long menu of gourmet curds from both cow and goat milk.
Scardello Artisan Cheese
Dallas foodies have fallen head over heels for Scardello Artisan Cheese. One hundred twenty varieties of cheese imported from all around the globe; slice-to-order options; jams, fresh salamis, crackers, and wine—this shop is a gourmand’s heaven.
Jimmy’s Food Store
Skipping your trip to Italy this year? No need to skip Italian altogether. This Dallas landmark offers homemade sausage and meatballs; Italian meats like pancetta, prosciutto di Parma, and Genoa salami; olives; imported cheeses; and classic Italian sweets and breads. Serve up something from Jimmy’s and don’t be surprised when guests ask for seconds and thirds.
Kuby’s Sausage House
Sometimes you have to wonder if the dreadful parking situation at Snider Plaza isn’t 100 percent due to the clamoring crowds at Kuby’s Sausage House. Known for homemade sausages, fine cuts of meat, German deli specialties, and European salads, this is the go-to for Parkies with a penchant for quality and flavor. If you’ve got hunters in your family, Kuby’s will process your game meats, too.
Rex’s Seafood Market
Seafood-lover Rex Bellomy carries 14 to 20 varieties of seafood (mostly fresh, some frozen) plus ready-made soups, dips, smoked salmon, seafood salads, and signature sauces. Specialties include wasabi flying fish roe, tuna tartare (made to order), sushi, ceviche, and beer-can-steamed pompano.
Rudolph’s Market and Sausage Factory
When it comes to tradition, it’s hard to beat Rudolph’s. This establishment has been serving up European-style sausage, smoked hams and turkeys cured over hickory, and aged-beef since 1895. Butchers cut your meat to order.
Texas Meats Supernatural
If the name sounds out of this world, that’s because the meats you find here taste that way. The consortium representing North Texas ranchers and farmers who use humane, organic techniques sells everything from beef to lamb to poultry to pork, all grass fed, free of most hormones and antibiotics, and 180 degrees from your usual supermarket fare. Find them at the Farmers Market on Fridays and Saturdays.
VonGeertsem Butcher Shoppe
Known by the regulars simply as VG’s, Greg Geerts’ and wife Cathy Tamez’s 3-year-old mom-and-pop butcher shop aims to change your mind about getting meat at the grocery store. Geers and Tamez do things right: they source their beef from Nebraska and animals that are 75 percent or more Black Angus, corn fed for 90 days (which apparently increases marbling), and aged for 29 days (which increases tenderness). Geerts hand selects each piece himself and doesn’t even keep a freezer in the store. “It’s truly a butcher shop in the old school way,” he says.
D Home readers will appreciate the decor of Cork in the West Village. But it’s more than a pretty façade: it’s a wine lover’s dream. With a curated selection of more than 700 wines for sale, the shop offers nearly 50 for immediate sampling at the high-tech wine bar. Don’t know a cabernet from a chardonnay? There are classes for rookies, as well as nice beer and sake selections.
From bottles on the cheap to high-end vintages from just about every major wine producer on the planet, this Knox Street wine shop has it all. It offers themed wine tastings, recession wines that “overdeliver for the price,” and new selections on a regular basis. They’ll even deliver cases to some Dallas neighborhoods, which is perfect for the hostess who has her hands full.
Dali Wine Bar
When your restaurant makes the Best Restaurant lists of D Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly, and more, you’re doing something right. But this restaurant is about so much more than a good meal: it’s a great deal when it comes to wine. All the bottles served in the restaurant are available for sale in store or online.
Times Ten Cellars
Texas isn’t exactly on the radar of most wine experts. But then maybe they haven’t been here. The owners blend the juices from grapes from California with those from their own vineyard in Alpine, Texas, for nice, crisp sips. Stop in for a drink at the cozy bar or buy a bottle to uncork at home.
You probably expect a wine bar to be a quiet locale, with erudite oenophiles swirling their glasses and talking top notes. If that’s keeping you away from the wine scene, chekc out Veritas. The new wine bar is a yuppie hot spot, with live local music and hordes of handsome men in untucked button-downs. And it’s no wonder, with walls stacked high with all manner of varietals, reasonable prices, and the option to taste before you buy.
La Popular Tamale House
If you want La Popular’s scrumptious tamales around the holidays, order early. It’s named “popular” for a reason. But tamales are good year-round. The East Dallas shop offers beef, pork, chicken, and veggie. And at less than a dollar apiece, they make for an inexpensive tasting menu.
For tamales that bring homemade to a whole new level, try Nueva Casita. Not only does the shop make crowd-pleasing tamales, they do it on the cheap—a dozen beef or pork tamales is a cool $7.95. You can more than double your guest list—and maybe even add a full bar and a bartender—with prices that reasonable.
You’ve bought the wine, whipped up a few apps, and created a dessert they’ll be talking about for months. But what to do about the sides? Head to Whole Foods, where premade dishes like garlic-roasted fingerling potatoes with buttermilk-yogurt herb dressing and green beans with shallots and almonds honestly require zero effort.
Zaguan World Bakery and Cafe
Want a few new flavors to spice up your dinner party? Look no further than the Latin bakery and cafe Zaguan. Breads like the cachitos, stuffed with cheese or ham and cheese, and almojábana, made from corn flour, join a large selection of sweets and main courses. Bonus: Zaguan caters.
If Todd Fiscus’ redo of Tillman’s Roadhouse has taught us anything, it’s that gourmet flavored popcorn has exploded onto the scene. That’s where Candy Corn’s, the snappy new shop in Snider Plaza comes in. Popcorns are made in house daily and come in 30-plus varieties ripe for the picking. The only foreseeable problem: guests may consume so much popcorn, they won’t have room for the first course. Candy Corn’s. 6827 Snider Plz. 214-373-0800.
Expect one-of-a-kind designs from this bakery. Executive chef Bronwen Weber has won many awards for her designs and has made multiple appearances on the Food Network. Of course you’ll find traditional wedding cakes, but she also makes scrumptious alternatives, such as tiers of cupcakes or petit fours. All are baked daily on site and are priced by design.
Owner Samantha Rush is an unlikely pastry chef. She was an accountant for nine years before she ditched the digit business and headed to California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Then she studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, which must be why her macaroons—her favorite treat to make and eat, she says—linger in your mind for days. The pastel pastries—meltingly delicious centers sandwiched between crisp meringue in flavors such as vanilla, pistachio, lavender, and raspberry—are as delicious as they are pretty.
You haven’t really had a petit four until you’ve tried Society Bakery’s tiny French cakes. But the fun doesn’t stop there: banana pudding, apple turnovers, lemon squares, chocolate-covered strawberries, and hand-decorated cakes will also delight your guests’ taste buds.
When it first opened in March 2007, the Dallas outpost of the famed L.A. cupcake boutique had a line around the block. A year later, its popularity hasn’t waned. Each day Sprinkles offers a dozen flavors, including its sinful signature red velvet. The hype is worth a bite.
Tart Pastry Boutiqueand Studio
After studying at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Tart owner Kristen Rahal Massad decided Dallas needed a few sweet nothings. Those nothings have turned out to be quite something. Now her pies, tarts, cookies, brownies, petit fours, and gorgeous decorated cakes have a reputation that precedes them.
The Dough Bar
Once upon a time, Grandma made fresh, homemade cookies. Remember? Cookies that haven’t gone from your freezer to your mouth in a mere 15 minutes? But you don’t have time for all that, so call The Dough Bar. The new-to-Dallas mail order outfit makes sweet treats—toffee chocolate chip, chewy coconut chip, chocolate white chocolate macadamia nut, three varieties of oatmeal, and Southern pecan bites—by hand. Order by 2 p.m. and they’ll get them out the next day. 469-619-3447. www.thedoughbar.com.
Art and Lily
At the newest shop on Greenville Avenue, co-owner Bryan Long is busy with his blooms. He creates custom arrangements starting at $65 or he’ll let you pick an armful of your own. The store also has a selection of gift items, original art, and home furnishings. 2000 Greenville Ave. 214-370-9700. www.artandlily.biz. Closed.
The ultimate event planner, Todd Fiscus, recently took over this Highland Park staple. He’s added candles, small gifts, cards, and art to the inventory—which is still primarily dedicated to fabulous flowers.
The official florist of the Dallas W Hotel, Bella Flora is known for bright color combos, pops of green, and creative shapes. Arrangements start at $65.
Dallas Farmers Market
You’re as creative as they come, so combine pretty with practical and hit the Farmers Market. There you will find a wide variety of cut flowers for your own unique flower arrangements.
If your taste runs more avant-garde than average, check out Enflowerment. The imaginative North Dallas florist delivers as far away as Fort Worth and offers signature arrangements like tulips in a bowl or cymbidium orchids perched in test tubes on a bed of green peas. This isn’t your grandma’s florist, but then there is nothing stale about the parties you intend to throw. 817-789-1440. www.enflowerment.com.
Missing Q Press
Jason McDaniel’s first letterpress kit was missing the letter Q, hence the quirky name. It’s with this playful spirit that McDaniel designs all of his cards and invitations. Technology gives him advantage these days: using a computer with his letterpress, he has plenty of custom designs and ink colors—and an endless supply of Q. Ready-made cards are available at Avant Garden, Stella Dallas, and Paper & Chocolate.
It’s hard not to be an expert on invites when you’re the owner of a gift shop and the designer behind Bell’Invito couture letterpress stationery and invitations. At her posh boutique, Heather Wiese-Alexander offers paper ready to go, like a hostess set that includes six crystal place card holders and 80 place cards, or purchase bespoke invitations from $11 apiece.
Paper & Chocolate
From classic Vera Wang to more whimsical designs from Page and Snow & Graham, there are plenty of pretty blank or fill-in invitations at this Inwood Village boutique. There’s no shortage of the sweet stuff, either.
Paperie & Co.
Start with letterpress designers Hello Lucky, William Arthur, Crane, and BT Elements and move on to custom designs and print-them-yourself blank cards. No matter what sort of fete you’re throwing, you’ll meet all your paper needs here.
Between the Sheets Co.
Dallas designer Erin Thomas creates invitations, recipe cards, wine labels, business cards, and more with an eye toward the impeccable.
A 30-inch round table that seats four: $9.75. A 6-foot gray stone faux finish bar: $67. A Chiavari ballroom chair with cushion: $10. When it comes to reliable, affordable, quality party rentals, Ducky Bob’s sets the standard, which is why it’s been the go-to rental source for Dallas hostesses for 30 years.
From elegant china, silver, chargers, linens, and serving pieces to shot glasses and centerpiece vases, RSVP Soirée has it all—and at prices that leave more money for the more important stuff (like on filling those shot glasses with the finer brands of booze!). 1937 Irving Blvd. 214-350-7787. www.dallasrsvp.com. Closed
So you’re not looking for a Chiavari chair; you’re thinking more of a Louis Ghost type. Call Todd Fiscus at Suite 206. He’s got the hippest rentals from companies like Kartell and Knoll, as well as custom pieces from his own studio. Think silver stump lamps, a Le Corbusier sectional, and tulip tables.